This too shall pass: 10 easy ways we can all look after our mental health these next few weeks
The world as we know it has shifted on its axis.
As someone who doesn’t typically struggle with feelings of anxiety, I have absolutely felt very lost and worried over the past few days, as the situation has escalated. Being in a different country from my own family, and knowing that my mum and sisters are both nurses, on the frontlines of this worldwide health crises, I’ve been surprised at how deeply I’ve felt the fears over their safety, over our society as a whole and just how this all will end.
But I also know that right now, all we can do is listen to the authorities, take our advice directly from the official bodies, and really just try to look after ourselves in the midst of all this chaos. We need to try to stay calm and believe that this too shall, indeed, pass.
Here are 10 little ways I am trying to look after my own mental health these days:
1. Move your body every day
We all know it – exercise is good for our health, both our physical health and our mental one too. Look up yoga videos on Youtube, download a fitness app on your phone, talk a walk down a local beach – do what feels right and best for you.
2. Get some sunshine in the morning
Well, this is Ireland, so maybe change that to fresh air... Sunshine would be ideal, though, so here's hoping. Why? Because moderate sunlight exposure helps improve your mood and focus by boosting the serotonin levels in your body. Also known as the 'happiness hormone', it makes you calm and alert.
3. Get a full night's sleep
Often, when we are feeling anxious about something, sleep can be hard to come by. But there are some very scientific reasons we should all be prioritising our sleep during stressful times.
Research has shown that while we sleep, our bodies undergo a whole range of processes that clear our bodies of toxins, balance our hormones and help us assimilate information from the day. In other words, making sure you get your eight hours every night will make a difference to your mood and emotions. As well as that, sleep has also been proven to boost our immune systems.
4. Try to meditate every morning – even for just a little bit
You might think it all sounds a little far-fetched, but once you get into meditating, even just for 10 minutes, in the morning, I guarantee you will come to love it. There are plenty of apps to help out if you are a little unsure of what to do or where to start, many of these have simple guided meditations you can do – even from the comfort of your bed. Meditations is a lovely way to ground yourself, and get ready for the day ahead.
5. Eat healthy foods
Food and nutrition are inextricably linked to our feeling of wellness and balance. Simple carbs and meals filled with sugar are bad news when it comes to feeling anxious and can actually make your body more likely to respond badly to stressful situations.
Instead, opt for a diet filled with plenty of whole foods. Eat mostly plant-based, add some healthy fats (nuts, salmon, avocado), make sure you are drinking enough water and start taking a vitamin D supplement.
6. Take a bath
Make time every evening to just soak in the bath with some bath salts and a good book. Why? Because water is soothing, and reading has been proven to have a calming effect on our brain.
7. Cut back on alcohol
Better yet – avoid it completely. Even though many 'self-medicate' with alcohol when they are feeling worried or stressed, studies have shown that this can end up backfiring.
While alcohol can reduce anxiety temporarily, it can also increase anxiety within just a few hours of consumption. This includes even moderate amounts of alcohol, and the effects on anxiety can last into the following day.
Instead, sip on green or herbal teas.
8. Turn off gadgets
Allow your brain to have a break from technology and the blue light these are emitting. Turn off all electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime, and limit the use of these during the day too.
And stop using your phone as an alarm clock. Get a proper alarm clock and leave your phone in another room. It's life-changing.
9. Do something that inspires you
Positivity – we can all do with more of that right now. So instead of binge-watching the news, or keeping up with Twitter around the clock, try taking some time to do something that will inspire you – and make you feel more positive and happy.
Listen to a really great podcast. Watch a movie that makes you feel happy. Flick through a magazine. Call someone you love talking to. You will without a doubt feel lighter and better once you have made time for this.
10. Tidy your space
Clutter is proven to cause stress and anxiety, but a tidy home will make for a calmer mind. Take advantage of being stuck indoors, and tackle tasks you have been putting off forever, be it your wardrobe, the kitchen presses or even deep-cleaning your bathroom.
How are YOU looking after your mental health these days, mums?